See also our related blog for the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Initiative.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Welcoming Nicolle!

We are proud to welcome Dr. Nicolle Hofmann to the Keller laboratory as our 2010/2011 Scott Carter Foundation Fellow at OHSU.  Nicolle will be pioneering an osteosarcoma therapeutics study between OSU (Corvallis) and OHSU (Portland).  To this project Nicolle brings a background in plant genetics, which is probably very appropriate for certain kinds of therapeutics we will be exploring.  

Nicolle's bio, in her own words:

" I received my B.Sc. in Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois. After taking a couple years off from school to work as a research assistant in the Nutrition and Food Science laboratory of Dr. John W. Erdman, I went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics. Since completing my Ph.D., I have held two post-doctoral positions, one in the Soybean Genomics and Improvement Laboratory at the USDA in Beltsville, Maryland and one in a plant metabolic engineering laboratory at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. Now that I am here in Portland, I am very excited to enter a very important area of research in the Pediatric Cancer Biology Program at OHSU."

Welcome, Nicolle!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Scott Carter Foundation Big Show! and Golf Tournament

Jinu and I were privileged to attend and participate in the Scott Carter Foundation fundraiser events this weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  This is an all-volunteer driven two part event, the Big Show dinner and auction, and the Indian Springs Golf Tournament.  It was my pleasure to meet the numerous proactive benefactors of the SCF in Tulsa, including some special parents of childhood cancer survivors including Amy White, a tireless advocate of families in her role as Pediatric Oncology Coordinator of the Oklahoma Family Network.  In its 17th year, this event exemplifies the commitment of a Scott's Family, and his community, to honor his memory by building a stronger foundation of research in childhood cancers. We are grateful that Jinu could be the 2009/2010 Scott Carter Fellow at OHSU.  

[ above right:  John Grant, Paula Carter, Jinu Abraham ]
[ below right:  Jinu Abraham, Cason Carter, Charles Keller ]

Friday, August 20, 2010

an informal word on our lab's research

Our laboratory focuses on long term and near-term treatments for the childhood muscle cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma, and the childhood brain tumor, medulloblastoma. To say long term, we mean basic science investigation of how these tumors work – such things as what kind of normal cell gives rise to one particular kind of cancer. And in saying near-term, we mean finding molecules in these cancers to directly turn off or turn on by drugs so that the tumor stops growing. Behind both approaches are some rather exciting genetically-engineered mice… modified from before birth so that at a certain age, and in a certain tissue, the same mutations found in a child’s cancer are activated in the mouse. Then the tumor can be followed to see how it grows and spreads… even to test a treatment to see whether the tumor growth can be reversed. That these mice have normal immune systems is a real plus, too, because white blood cells play an important role in how tumors evolve and respond to therapy.

While this use of mouse models makes our lab slightly unique, our greatest asset is that we have a very multi-disciplinary team. Biomedical engineers for building and operating imaging and diagnostic instruments, biochemists for understanding the molecules, molecular biologists and electrical engineers for understanding how tumors express genes in certain ways, and me (the board-certified pediatric oncologist) helping bring it all together in a focused way. Sometimes we venture beyond the ordinary, such as the use of 26¢ fertilized quail eggs (instead of mice or petri dish experiments) to study anti-cancer drugs. That last project is one graciously sponsored by the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. We’re even the first to work with the National Cancer Institute’s Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program to try exciting new drugs right out of the pharmaceutical development pipeline in genetically-engineered mouse models of childhood cancer.

I’d like to think that tangibly better treatments for rhabdomyosarcoma and medulloblastoma can be found in a matter of years, instead of tens of years. I go to a fundraiser golf tournament for the Scott Carter Foundation every year. They sponsored my research training in Mario Capecchi’s lab years ago, and now sponsor our pediatric cancer researcher in training, Nicolle Hoffman. Standing at the 18th hole every year, I get the same question about every 5 minutes, “Doctor, do you have anything new for these kids yet?” These questions led my lab to put a heavy emphasis on therapeutics about 4 years ago. As a result, we’re finding drug targets, as well as drugs to hit those targets that are less inclined to result in relapse for our patients (ok – yes, it’s just mice so far, but I also am a member of the Children’s Oncology Group committee that designs COG trial for rhabdomyosarcoma).

What's on the horizon?  A lot!  In moving to OHSU in Portland we're now teaming with Dr. Brian Druker to develop personalized targeted therapies (of the non-chemotherapy variety) for children with cancer.  Our results can move faster than ever from the bench to the bedside with the COG Phase I pediatric oncology program here at our Doernbecher Children's Hospital, and with the leadership opportunity of building a de novo Pediatric Cancer Biology Program at OHSU, there's tremendous potential to build a focused team of laboratories that share a common goal of doing the best research and moving making results relevant to patients in the here and now.

Where there is a will, there is a way. Change can be tangible.  And we are accountable.

Charles Keller, MD

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

OSU College of Veterinary Medicine

We thank Dr. Bernard Seguin (oncological surgery) and Dr. Shay Bracha (oncology) for meeting with us today to discuss the intersection of childhood and companion pet clinical trials for cancer.  The specialized facilities at the Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine are truly outstanding, and represent a strong resource for partnerships in developing new treatments for soft tissue and bone sarcomas of childhood and adolescence.  

[ above right:  Jinu, Bernard, Charles & Elaine at OSU ]
[ note: neither Ducks or Beavers were harmed in the pursuit of this collaboration ]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The “Creating Hope Act of 2010” S.3697

This important proposed bipartisan legislature by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Al Franken (D-MN) would encourage pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs for rare childhood diseases, including cancer.  Essentially, the pharmaceutical companies would receive a voucher to expedite FDA approval.

For more details, visit Nancy Goodman's website for KIDS V CANCER.     

Monday, August 9, 2010

Suresh's Cover!

Congratulations to Suresh whose multi-modal molecular imaging is the cover of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics ! The broader description of this study is that we can now investigate rhabdomyosarcoma tumor cell interactions with the blood vessels and the immune system... using optical imaging, and without the interference of, well, hair!  

Many congratulations again to co-first authors Bev and Marcia, as well as Suresh!
[ For the abstract, click here ]   

Jackson's Ride the Gorge

This past weekend we had the good fortune to participate in Jackson's Ride the Gorge in Hood River, OR.  This fundraiser honors the memory of 12 year-old Jackson Hill who battled osteosarcoma and inspired the beautiful ride through the Columbia Gorge.  The money raised is used for increasing awareness and supporting research for sarcoma, a cancer of the connective tissue.  We found ourselves humbled by the number of people who rode (300!) or volunteered (over 70!) to make this event happen and were delighted to have the opportunity to provide aide at rest stops and at the finish line alongside them. 

It is safe to say that we have been moved by the enthusiasm and dedication of all involved and intend to participate (we hope as riders!) in the years to come.
(photos and text by Elaine, who with Audra volunteered at The Dalles support station)  

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hyundai Hope on Wheels Award to Doernbecher & the PCB Program

Our research team in the Pediatric Cancer Biology Program is grateful for this opportunity to further childhood cancer research on behalf of Hope on Wheels, Hyundai and their dedicated employees.  The effect of Hope on Wheels can be tangibly seen across the nation, not only through the distinctive handprint cars, but through the innovative research that has been sponsored at so many academic hospitals and centers. 
We are honored to have this chance to do our part.
for the KATU TV story, click here .

Monday, August 2, 2010

Congratulations to Sachiko!

We are excited that Sachiko's cell and biochemical studies for IGF receptor inhibition in medulloblastoma have been accepted to Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications.  Co-authors include Tohru and Laura.   A key aspect of this study is the use of primary cell cultures maintained under neural stem cell conditions.  In general, our lab and others are trending away from the use of traditional cell cultures for medulloblastoma, especially when sonic hedgehog signaling might be important.

Again - many congratulations, Sachiko!
[ Aug 10, 2010:  the manuscript is now available online here. ]